#955: Rank and File – Finding The World’s (!) Favourite Golden Age Sleuth

Here’s something I’ve been curious about, and probably only now have the time and energy to think about organising: who is the most popular detective character of the genre’s Golden Age?

Usually, Puzzle Doctor is the king of this sort of thing, but I’m going to invade his territory by arranging for a series of polls over the coming months to whittle it down (and probably discover that the answer is Hercule Poirot…) and then, y’know, tell you.

For today, in what will seem like an astoundingly lazy piece of blogging but will generate a lot of work behind the scenes, all I’m asking is that you nominate in the comments any detective character you’d like to be up for consideration. The number of votes any character receives will determine their seeding — so don’t take anything, or anyone, for granted; or, I guess, do, if you think someone popular should be seeded lower — and if there seems sufficient interest we’ll then put them head-to-head and narrow down until we have the overall winner. What’s that? The character who receives the most votes is probably gonna win? Shuddup.

This will not be done on successive Saturdays, because I doubt it will sustain enough interest if done that way, but shall instead be answered by the end of the year. Probably.

“Sounds good; what are the rules?”

Some rules:

  1. In order to qualify, the characters you nominate must have played the role of detective in at least two novels published for the first time anywhere in the world between 1st January 1920 and 31st December 1945. Novels not by the characters’ original creators — a.k.a. “continuation novels” — do not count. I’ll allow Father Brown because of his impact on the genre, but no other short story sleuths, for lack of guaranteed parity.
  2. We are going by depictions of sleuths on the page and not on the screen, stage, or radio. Pick your favourites, but base them on how their creator portrayed them, which is therefore open to some uniformity of experience, and not on a performance you liked in a regional theatre production somewhere in Idaho in 1972.
  3. Characters must all be nominated in one single comment per proposer (you, the person reading this), so that I’m not trying to field multiple posts from multiple people. Anyone you don’t mention in your first comment will not have any additional votes you cast counted. Consider a) your choices before you make them and b) my sanity, please.
  4. As mentioned above, the number of votes a character received will determine their seeding, which will in turn determine the run-offs in future votes. In the event of two character receiving an equal number of votes, higher seeding will be given to the character who featured in the most novels in the period determined above; if this is also equal, seedings will be determined by drawing names from a hat, with the first-drawn receiving the higher seeding. Seedings will be declared when the vote-offs commence.
  5. Yes, it’s likely that the character who receives the most nominations will win, but by no means definite, so let’s just do it anyway, eh? For the fun of it?
  6. In order to manage the behind the scenes element of this, I will make a note of your votes and then delete the contents of your comment; don’t worry about this, it’s just to help me keep a running total over the week during which votes can be cast.
  7. In order to have a proper vote-off in future rounds, the number of detectives shall be restricted to a power of 2 (probably 64). The detectives who are seeded 65 and down will be automatically discounted. If we’re just shy of a power of two, there will be some uncontested byes into the next round.
  8. The closing date/time for votes is 23:59 BST on Friday 2nd September 2022. Votes cast after this time will not be counted even if they appear below.
  9. Don’t overthink it, this isn’t really of any consequence whatsoever. Yes, Archie Goodwin is just as valid a nomination as Nero Wolfe.
  10. You do not have any questions.

Get nominating below; the first round of head-to-head voting goes up in a fortnight.

58 thoughts on “#955: Rank and File – Finding The World’s (!) Favourite Golden Age Sleuth

    • If they were written by Hornung, yes; otherwise, no. Continuation novels don’t qualify, as the characters were not originally Golden Age and including pastiches makes this undertaking too complicated for words 🙂


      • No, written by Barry Perowne. Quite a different character to Hornung’s Raffles, or indeed Perowne’s post-war version.


  1. Sounds like it will be a fun poll. I was slightly saddened though that your criteria automatically ruled out three of my favourite sleuths: Jane and Dagobert Brown and Lily Wu started in the second half of the 1940s and the Lady Lupin mysteries gallingly were published in 1944, 1946 and 1947.
    However, I gave it some thought, and deciding not to nominate the more obvious contenders such as Wimsey, Poirot and Marple (as I feel sure the occasional other person might have nominated them already) here is my list:

    This vote has been counted


    • If it’s any consolation, I’m annoyed not to be able to include Kosuke Kindaichi, who didn’t appear until 1946. Don’t blame me, blame the, er, insistence of, er, other people that the Golden Age is 1920-45.

      Definitely not my fault, oh no 🙂


    • Compendious… I appreciate the word choice! I thought of just about every detective I’ve ever enjoyed to any extent, although there are definitely a few favorites among them. Then I felt bad if I took any of them off…


      • In order to keep track of votes, I made a list of what I considered to be the most likely choices — 58 names long — and you managed to include a few I didn’t have on there. We’re up to 80 suggestions at present, with only one of the names I pre-empted not having been mentioned…so some are definitely gonna get cut. But let’s see if we get any votes past this weekend, because that might determined who gets no further…


  2. This is gonna be great.

    This vote has been counted

    Thanks for your hard work in bringing this to fruition. Looking forward to seeing how it turns out.


  3. Here is the complete list of my candidates, some well known, some comparatively obscure (“As usual” I hear you all saying)

    This vote has been counted; some of them are pretty obscure…!


  4. This vote has been counted; didn’t occur to me to offer upvotes and downvotes…would have been insane to keep track, but probably a lot of fun to see how things emerged!


  5. What a great idea for a contest/poll/whatever-you-wanna-call-it! I’m really interested to see how this plays out. It was kind of a foregone conclusion that Christie won the recent contest (It should’ve been Carr! *shakes fist*), but this seems to be much more of an open question. I’ll be looking forward to the results of this first round.

    As for my nominations (in no especial order):

    This vote has been counted

    That’s all I can think of at the moment, though I’m sure that as soon as I hit post I’ll remember a half dozen I should’ve added. Oh well…


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